Verse 14. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age. Nature decays but grace thrives. Fruit, as far as nature is concerned, belongs to days of vigour; but in the garden of grace, when plants are weak in themselves, they become strong in the Lord, and abound in fruit acceptable with God. Happy they who can sing this Sabbath Psalm, enjoying the rest which breathes through every verse of it; no fear as to the future can distress them, for their evil days, when the strong man faileth, are the subject of a gracious promise, and therefore they await them with quiet expectancy. Aged believers possess a ripe experience, and by their mellow tempers and sweet testimonies they feed many. Even if bedridden, they bear the fruit of patience; if poor and obscure, their lowly and contented spirit becomes the admiration of those who know how to appreciate modest worth. Grace does not leave the saint when the keepers of the house do tremble; the promise is still sure though the eyes can no longer read it; the bread of heaven is fed upon when the grinders fail; and the voice of the Spirit in the soul is still melodious when the daughters of music are brought low. Blessed be the Lord for this! Because even to hoar hairs he is the I AM, who made his people, he therefore bears and carries them.
They shall be fat and flourishing. They do not drag out a wretched, starveling existence, but are like trees full of sap, which bear luxuriant foliage. God does not pinch his poor servants, and diminish their consolations when their infirmities grow upon them; rather does he see to it that they shall renew their strength, for their mouths shall be satisfied with his own good things. Such an one as Paul the aged would not ask our pity, but invite our sympathetic gratitude; however feeble his outward man may be, his inner man is so renewed day by day that we may well envy his perennial peace.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 14. They shall still bring forth fruit in, old age. The point on which the Psalmist in this passage fixes, as he contemplates the blessedness of God's own children, is the beauty and happiness of their old age. The court or open area in the centre of an eastern dwelling, and especially the court of any great and stately dwelling, was often adorned with a tree, or sometimes with more than one, for beauty, for shade, and, as it might be, for fruit. There sometimes the palm tree, planted by the cool fountain, shot up its tall trunk toward the sky, and waved its green top, far above the roof, in the sunlight and the breeze. There sometimes the olive, transplanted from the rocky hill side, may have flourished under the protection and culture of the household, and may have rewarded their care with the rich abundance of its nutritious berries. With such images in his mind, the Psalmist, having spoken of the brief prosperity of the wicked, and having compared it with the springing and flourishing of the grass, which grows to its little height only to be immediately cut down, naturally and beautifully compares the righteous, not with the deciduous herbage, but with the hardy tree that lives on through the summer's drought and the winter's storms, and from season to season still renews its growth. These trees of righteousness, as the poet conceives of them, are "planted in the house of the Lord"; they stand fair and "flowering in the courts of our God" -- even "in old age they bring forth fruit" -- they are "full of sap and flourishing" -- they are living memorials "to show that the Lord is faithful", and that those who trust in him shall never be confounded. -- Leonard Bacon, 1845.
Verse 14. -- There be three things which constitute a spiritual state, or belong to the life of God.
- That believers be fat; that is, by the heavenly juice, sap, or fatness of the true olive, of Christ himself, as Romans 11:17 . This is the principle of spiritual life and grace derived from him. When this abounds in them, so as to give them strength and rigour in the exercise of grace, to keep them from decays and withering, they are said to be fat; which, in the Scripture phrase, is strong and healthy.
- That they flourish in the greenness (as the word is) and verdure of profession; for vigorous grace will produce a flourishing profession.
- That they still bring forth fruit in all duties of holy obedience. All these are promised unto them even in old age.
Even trees, when they grow old (the palm and the cedar), are apt to lose a part of their juice and verdure: and men in old age are subject unto all sorts of decays, both outward and inward. It is a rare thing to see a man in old age naturally vigorous, healthy, and strong; and would it were not more rare to see any spiritually so at the same season! But this is here promised unto believers as an especial grace and privilege, beyond what can be represented in the growth or fruit bearing of plants and trees. The grace intended is, that when believers are under all sorts of bodily and natural decays, and, it may be, have been overtaken with spiritual decays also, there is provision made in the covenant to render them fat, flourishing, and fruitful, -- vigorous in the power of internal grace, and flourishing in the expression of it in all duties of obedience; which is that which we now inquire after. Blessed be God for this good word of his grace, that he hath given us such encouragement against all the decays and temptations of old age which we have to conflict withal!
And the Psalmist, in the next words, declares the greatness of the privilege: "To shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him." Consider the oppositions that lie against the flourishing of believers in old age, the difficulties of it, the temptations that must be conquered, the acting of the mind above its natural abilities which are decayed, the weariness that is apt to befall us in a long spiritual conflict, the cries of the flesh to be spared, and we shall see it to be an evidence of the faithfulness, power, and righteousness of God in covenant; nothing else could produce this mighty effect. So the prophet, treating of the same promise, Hosea 14:4-8 , closes his discourse with that blessed remark, Hosea 14:9 , "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them." Spiritual wisdom will make us to see that the faithfulness and power of God are exerted in this work of preserving believers flourishing and fruitful unto the end. --John Owen.
Verse 14. Constancy is an ingredient in the obedience Christ requires. His trees bring forth fruit in old age. Age makes other things decay, but makes a Christian flourish. Some are like hot horses, mettlesome at the beginning of a journey, and tired a long time before they come to their journey's end. A good disciple, as he would not have from God a temporary happiness, so he would not give to God a temporary obedience; as he would have his glory last as long as God lives, so he would have his obedience last as long as he lives. Judas had a fair beginning, but destroyed all in the end by betraying his Master. -- Stephen Charnook.
Verse 14. Flourishing. Here is not only mention of growing but of flourishing, and here's flourishing three times mentioned, and it is growing and flourishing not only like a tree, but like a palm tree, (which flourisheth under oppression), and like a cedar (not growing in ordinary places, but) "in Lebanon", where were the goodliest cedars. Nor doth the Spirit promise here a flourishing in boughs and leaves only (as some trees do, and do no more), but in fruit; and this not only fruit for once in a year, or one year, but they still bring forth fruit, and that not only in the years of their youth, or beginnings in grace, but in old age, and that not only in the entrance of that state which is called old age, threescore years, but that which the Scripture calls the perfection of old age, threescore years and ten, as the learned Hebrews observe upon the word used in the psalm. What a divine climax doth the Spirit of God make in this Scripture, to show that the godly man as to his state, is so far from declining, that he is still climbing higher and higher. --Joseph Caryl.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- Regeneration -- "planted."
- Growth in grace -- "flourish."
- Usefulness -- "fruit."
- Perseverance -- "old age."
- The reason of it all -- "to shew that the Lord", etc.